The government has been warned that the huge task of ensuring rented homes comply with its new electrical safety standards is unlikely to be achieved by the deadline of 1st April 2021.

That’s when rented properties must comply with the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020.

These went live in June this year but landlords or their letting agents were given until the 1st April. But trade association ARLA Propertymark is now asking for a 12-month extension to this deadline.

A letter sent to housing minister Christopher Pincher yesterday by the organisation’s campaigns manager Timothy Douglas does not mince its words, saying that an ‘anticipated and widespread failure in compliance’ will follow unless his warnings are heeded.

These include:

  • Half of letting agents canvassed in a recent poll said they had 60 or more properties on their books that needed all their electrical installations inspected and checked before April 1st.
  • The various regional and national lockdowns this year have slowed and complicated the work needed to upgrade properties to the required standard.
  • Many tenants are reluctant to allow tradespeople into their homes during the pandemic – particularly as electricians often need to spend up to four hours in a property to test, inspect and upgrade the electrical installations.
  • There is a shortage of qualified electricians available to do the work and current supply chain issues make sourcing the correct equipment difficult.

“On behalf of our members, I ask that you consider the benefits to tenants, landlords and letting agents of extending the requirements for existing tenancies in order to ensure that landlords and letting agents can meet their legal obligations,” the letter says.

Read more about electrical safety.
Read more about recent regulation changes.


  1. The electrician bodies need to be sued by landlords. I have spend considerable amount of money upgrading consumer units, only to be told in future we need consumer units made of metal. They should n’t keep changing regulations, it is a money making scheme for their members.

    This is a deliberate attempt to fleece landlords. It is pushing up rental costs.

    • It is a deliberate attempt to improve safety in rentals. Plastic units are a C3 – perfectly acceptable, just not best practice.

      Having seen the state of the consumer unit in a property I am currently buying, these regulations should be applied to all houses not just rentals.

    • Some of my consumer units are new too – less than 2 years old. If plastic isn’t the best material to use, then why has it been used and why has it taken so long to realise plastic burns nicely in a fire?

      I agree with Tricia – it should apply to all houses, but, if it did , the government might have to subsidise it.

      • “Non combustible” CUs were in the 2018 regs, and any installation designed after 31st Dec 2018 should comply. If you had a plastic CU installed after that date, then ask the contractor why. If they are a member of one of the scams, err schemes, such as NAPIT or NICEIC then the rules of their membership requires them to follow BS7671 (a.k.a. the wiring regs), while technically others are allowed to deviate if it doesn’t detract from safety.
        The actual rule is :
        421.1.201 Within domestic (household) premises, consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies shall comply with BS EN 61439-3 and shall:
        (i) have their enclosure manufactured from non-combustible material, or
        (ii) be enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed of non-combustible material and complying with Regulation 132.12.
        NOTE: Ferrous metal, e.g. steel, is deemed to be an example of a non-combustible material.

        BTW – steel and concrete are combustible under the right circumstances (look up “oxygen lance”), and plastic isn’t automatically combustible (it depends on it’s composition). It’s quite likely that if the regs referenced any existing standard, then plastic cases could be made to meet that standard. Instead we have the rubbish I’ve quoted above.
        Complaints to joint IET/BSI committee JPEL/64 – those of us at the coalface didn’t ask for it.

        Also, there are safety arguments against metal and for non-conductive plastic. In fact, in many types of installation, a conductive metal CU is a positive danger. it relates to earthing, and the effects of certain faults.

        It’s widely accepted that the rules was introduced at the behest of London Fire Brigade who have observed a significant number of fires involving consumer units – with the idea being that should a fire start in a ‘non combustible’ unit then it won’t spread fast and the occupants will have a better chance of escape when the smoke alarm is triggered.
        Those “at the coalface” think the root cause is most likely to be the mass meter change program – where barely competent and poorly trained meter fitters are leaving terminals loose. During the meter change, they are moving the stiff cables that go into the CU, and that can loosen the terminations at the main switch. These should be checked when the fitter is done changing the meter, but I suspect that is rare.
        So loose terminals, passing heavy currents, create heat and over time that causes components to degrade and eventually a fire is started.

  2. Erm, if CUs made it plastic are not the best or may be outlawed, why has my rewire just used one? (completed 10 weeks ago)


    • If a new plastic CU has been installed ina domestic property, then go back to the contractor and ask them why. It’s been in the regs since 2018 that they must be of “non combustible material” – though the regs are woefully rubbish in not giving any definition whatsoever of what that means. The regs do say that ferrous metal (i.e. steel) is deemed to comply – and that’s what they are all steel now, because the regs don’t cite any definition against which anything else can be tested and so steel is the only material that can be stated as complying. Many plastic cases would probably comply if the regs simple referenced an existing standard !
      And yes, those of us at the sharp end have “strongly criticised” this – but it’s not been fixed.

  3. Oh yes, for anyone getting an EICR “fail” because of a plastic CU …
    A plastic CU does not, in itself, mean a C2 or C1 code. Unless there is some other problem, then it’s a C3 at worst (which doesn’t trigger the 28 days to fix it clock), but in most cases will be nothing more than a note.
    If you have an EICR done and they give a C2 or C1 for a plastic CU case, then a) kick up a fuss with the contractor, and b) make a formal complaint with whatever trade bodies they are a member of, abd c) complain to trading Standards. There are a lot of charlatans around at the moment making a fast buck off the back of landlords – there have been a number of threads in various forums where it’s very clear that the supposed electrician doing an EICR is either lying to make expensive work for them to do, or is plain incompetent, or both.
    The important thing is for people to make complaints to the trade bodies and trading standards. The trade bodies (NAPIT, NICEIC etc) are notable for rarely throwing people out – after all, they are primarily there to collect membership fees ! if they get enough complaints they will find it harder to justify ignoring them. By notifying Trading Standards, it allows them to form a picture of problems that are around, and perhaps they might ask questions of the trade bodies.
    Also, note that an electrician does not have to be a member of the trade schemes, and many competent people are not members for various reasons. Similarly, being a member of a scheme is not a guarantee of quality (I’ve seen plenty of evidence of that !), regardless of what the schemes try and make you believe.

    • A C3 doesn’t fail the installation, but you would still be liable as the duty holder if a fire spread due to the consumer unit being plastic. Just spend the money and make it safe and compliant.

  4. Landlords have had years to ensure their electrical installations are up to scratch. I’ve never tested a property that hasn’t exceeded the next inspection date.

    I see consumer units that are 50+ years old on a regular basis and there’s upraw when I quote £650 to change the board, which will last at least 10 years, minimum.

    £65 a year? I had one landlord that increased the rent £50 a month to cover the cost of the new consumer unit.

    Maintain your properties correctly and stop trying to grab every penny. You have a duty of care and any decent electrician will make sure that the installation is safe and fit for purpose, at the end of the day it’s down to the landlord if anything happens.


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